Born To Play

Posted by martin.parnell |

The International Calgary Running Symposium was held from August 14th to 16th. This event was in celebration of the retirement of Dr. Benno Nigg, one of the early pioneers of biomechanics research. Over 200 of the world’s top authorities on running research were in one place and it was an opportunity I was not going to miss.

The format was panel discussions and keynote presentations. The panel discussions covered running injuries, running performance, theoretical models and data mining and barefoot and minimalist shoe running. Several interesting nuggets came out of the discussions: The need to establish a definition as to what exactly is a running injury; what role does genetics play in injury frequency; the use of ice baths and why in the longer term it’s not such a good idea and barefoot running verses shoes, it’s whatever works for you.

Keynotes were presented on some fascinating topics. Dr. Alberto Minetti’s presentation was “Giant strides are what you’ll take, skipping on the moon”. He explained that skipping was the optimum gait in a low gravity environment. I’ll definitely keep this in mind when I sign up for the Rock and Roll Moon Marathon. Dr. Martyn Shorten’s topic was “Runners in their natural habitat – biomechanical field study”. Dr. Martyn highlighted a running gait between walking and running called “grounded running”. This is one used by a number of ultra-runners including myself.

The talk I was most looking forward to was from Dr. Daniel Lieberman. Dr. Lieberman had co-authored, with Dr. Dennis Bramble, an article in 2004, in Nature magazine called “Endurance Running and the Evolution of the Homo”. The theme was picked up in Christopher McDougall bestselling book “Born to Run” and the rest as they say is history. Barefoot running is not really my cup of tea but I am intrigue by the science behind it.

One area that I found particularly interesting in Dr. Lieberman presentation was on energy conservation in the hunter-gatherer society. Energy intake had to balance energy expenditure which included such tasks as foraging, hunting and making tools. Energy could not be wasted however there was one exception, play. This was a way of learning new skills and surviving in a harsh environment.

After his presentation I had a chance to chat with Dr. Lieberman. We talked about the role of play in today’s society. Health challenges such as heart disease, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes are at epidemic levels. We need to get people moving and he pointed out that play should not only be for children but also for adults. Never underestimate the power of play, your life may depend on it.

Quote of the Week

"Jogging is very beneficial. It's good for your legs and your feet. It's also very good for the ground. It make it feel needed"

Charles Schulz - "Peanuts"

Who needs biomechanics research. This drawing by my grand daughter, Autumn, age 10, captures my running form perfectly.

Born To Play 

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